Another newspaper, another list of gun owners


Senior editors at the North Carolina-based Civitas Media, which owns around 100 daily and weekly newspapers, proposed creating a state-by-state database of gun owners – concealed carry licensees – and then publishing the results online.

Their plans seem to have been placed on hold, however, after the Buckeye Firearms Association, an Ohio-based gun-rights group,  published an internal Civitas email about the plan.

According to the email, Jim Lawitz, Civitas’ director of content, wrote “We will attempt to build state-by-state databases that list those who have the right to carry a concealed weapon.” He planned to acquire the data for the “enterprise project” through public records requests.

Buckeye got the email from a confidential source at the newspaper chain who had safety buckeyeconcerns about the proposal.

The last time a newspaper published a list of gun owners things did not go well.

The Journal News, located in Westchester, New York, published an interactive database of residents who had permits to possess handguns. The database was searchable, and even contained the gun owners’ actual addresses. It sparked a nationwide furor. The paper and its editors had to hire armed guards, and the data was eventually taken offline.

There are a host problems associated with publishing lists of gun owners. First and foremost – there are very real, very valid safety concerns. After prescription medication and loose cash, firearms are highly prized by residential burglars. Publishing a list of gun owners would be a boon to the burglary business.  I wonder what the Civitas editors would think of publishing a list of expensive jewelry owners, high-end sports car devotees or those who carry large amounts of cash.

There are also questions about the need for such a database.

As a reporter who’s not unfamiliar with enterprise projects – even if the safety concerns were somehow mitigated – I struggle to see the purpose for such a database. It’s got no journalistic cred.

I could understand acquiring the data if there were questions about how the permits were issued – say a public official was selling them out the backdoor of his office, or a minority group was denied access to a concealed carry program – but publishing names and addresses of gun owners should never be part of any “enterprise project.” It puts lives at risk.

I had never heard of Civitas Media until this story broke, although I’ve only been a reporter for 16 years.

Kudos to the Buckeye Firearms Association for acquiring the internal email, investigating its authenticity and protecting the confidential source.

That’s real journalism.


About Author

Lee Williams can’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t shooting. Before becoming a journalist, Lee served in the Army and worked as a police officer. He’s earned more than a dozen journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. He is an NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, an avid tactical shooter and a training junkie. When he’s not busy as a senior investigative reporter, he is usually shooting his AKs, XDs and CZs. If you don’t run into him at a local gun range, you can reach him at 941.284.8553, by email, or by regular mail to 1777 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can follow him on Twitter: @HT_GunWriter and on Facebook @The Gun Writer.


  1. Lee…. thank you for helping to get the word out on this “Enterprise Project.” I happen to live in a small Ohio community whose newspaper is owned by Civitas Media and it concerns me that Civitas would even consider such a project. We are fortunate in Ohio to have a class organization like Buckeye Firearms looking out for the interests of the firearms owners and enthusiasts. Thanks again for raising the awareness on this issue.

  2. As long as pro-gun organizations are visibly ready to research and publish the private information of any journalists engaging in this practice, it will be nipped in the bud.

  3. The reason the NY project was scrapped was that the same day the list came out, there was personal public information such as home addresses and home telephone numbers on the editor and every reporter on the newspaper, displayed on the internet so that people who had gun permits could discuss the issue with them in a calm, civilized manner.

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